As Nightwing’s Death of the Family tie-in comes to a close, Dick is once again stripped of everything he holds dear. Well, almost everything. Technically this book is acceptably written and nicely illustrated, though long time Nightwing fans will understandably have mixed feelings about where this leaves Dick standing in the DCU.
The book opens with Nightwing frantically working his way across Gotham rooftops to Amusement Mile and Haly’s circus. The Joker has left an invitation for him carved into the body of a former love interest. Dick knows all of Haly’s circus could be in mortal danger when it comes to a threat of this caliber.
Eddy Barrows doesn’t always bring his A-Game consistently, but it’s clear that for this issue he is giving 110%. The anatomy and body language of the characters is excellent, and the double page spread with former members of Haly’s standing under the big top is particularly gruesome and detailed. The only real weakness in Barrows’ art lies in how he portrays Dick’s facial expressions. Eddy doesn’t give us the confident, unshakable, smiling in the face of danger Dick we’re so familiar with, but too often paints him with a wide-eyed, wide-mouthed horror stricken face. One could argue that it’s appropriate for the situation, but this is something that has been consistent throughout all of Barrows’ work with the character. His portrayal, much like the book itself is too concerned with shock and horror, and not enough with the fun and excitement one might feel Dick attracts as one of the most optimistic heroes in the DCU.
The plot itself is the same cookie cutter DoTF tie-in plot we’ve seen several times now. It’s thin, lacks substance, and doesn’t bring anything interesting to the formula. If this sort of tie-in is something that happens again in the future, Higgins should consider branching out creatively and giving us something more along the lines of Detective #15—the best DoTF tie-in. It isn’t the best because SuperJoker omnipotent in all his glory shows up to deliver the sparknotes exposition of the main batman title, but because it adds so much to the Joker’s presence and his influence on the city without even showing him. This is a horror event, but it doesn’t understand the most fundamental rule of horror. What scares you the most is what you don’t see, what’s left to your imagination.
The dialogue is acceptable if not repetitive. It’s certainly not among the weak of the Batman line in that respect.
However, the aspect of this book which fans might find most disheartening is the trashing of the supporting cast the book has been trying to build for over a dozen issues before this. I say trying because it’s throwing away all of the characters that haven’t actually caught on, and mistakenly expecting us to care.
Maybe they aren’t dead you say? Perhaps, but even if they are still alive, it’s clear that Dick won’t be sticking around and the book will be going in a different direction.
After the systematic annihilation of Dick’s cast in the previous volume of Nightwing punctuated with the actual destruction of Bludhaven, and now the same structural demolition in this volume after only fourteen issues, one has to wonder how well we’ll be getting to know his new supporting cast before they’re wiped out by yet another Bat-family crossover.
The most interesting part of the book is the cliffhanger leading to Batman #17 in which we see Joker dragging Dick up to what I’m guessing is the Batcave, and showing him that same silver platter which we’ve seen before. My guess for what’s underneath is an anniversary cake with red frosting.
Reviewed by Micah Evans